New Sustainability Practices Redefine The Nation’s Oldest Barbecue Chain

New Sustainability Practices Redefine The Nation's Oldest Barbecue Chain

Tamala Fowler, Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. Vice President of Purchasing and R&D, is leading the charge in sustainability planning for the nation’s largest fast casual barbecue chain

New Sustainability Practices Redefine The Nation's Oldest Barbecue ChainLast year, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit sold over 28 million pounds of smoked meat across nearly 500 stores. Tamala Fowler, Dickey’s recently appointed vice president of purchasing and research and development, knows just what it takes to not only acquire that quantity of meat at the right price, but to ensure its quality all the way to guests’ plates. Apart from grocery stores, Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. is the largest purchaser of brisket in the nation. With that volume comes a certain responsibility for sustainable practices, which Fowler and her team are constantly improving.

Fowler is in a unique position with Dickey’s. Her day to day responsibilities range from research and development to sourcing the millions of pounds of meat and the many other products that the franchises will use and sell, and at the right price. She can be found assessing sustainability practices pertaining to packaging and shipping Dickey’s products and is always searching for new eco-friendly opportunities. She also oversees Dickey’s product rollout to grocery stores, which now consists of rolls, but will soon include chips, signature barbecue sauce, brisket rub, sausage and more.

Currently, Fowler and her team are focused on research on the science of a more eco-friendly and health-conscious barbecue. They use the principles of the Maillard Reaction, discovered in 1912 by French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard, to develop new flavors and processes around smoking meat. The Maillard Reaction is the chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars that brown meat and give it flavor when it is heated. This is what gives Dickey’s barbecue the “bark” on the outside of its famous brisket, where the flavor is the strongest. Hundreds of subtle flavors are produced as a result of this reaction, and Fowler is working on fine tuning these to create more sustainable barbecue through new, creative uses of firewood and heat. The team has also recently focused on removing sodium nitrate and nitrite from Dickey’s sausage and ensuring meat options are as delicious and wholesome as possible.

With an eye on the future, Fowler and her team are consistently looking at more sustainable ways to source meat and other products. There are some exciting developments in the food industry that she hopes to put in place in the future at Dickey’s. She is looking into antibiotic-free meat while also creating cleaner ways of smoking and preparing it. She hopes to bring a more healthful approach to the decades-old way of doing barbecue, while still serving up the same quality that Dickey’s guests have come to know.

For now, her team’s research goes hand in hand with their preparations for the holidays, the busiest time of year for Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. With over 400,000 pounds of holiday hams to go out to stores before Thanksgiving, it’s a tall order.

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Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc., the nation’s largest barbecue chain was founded in 1941 by Travis Dickey with the goal of authentic slow smoked barbecue. Today, all meats are still slow smoked on-site in each restaurant living up to the company tagline, “We Speak Barbecue.” The Dallas-based family-run barbecue franchise offers a quality selection of signature meats, home style sides, tangy barbecue sauce and free kids’ meals every Sunday. The fast-casual concept has expanded to over 500 locations in 43 states. This year Dickey’s Barbecue was recognized for the third year by Nation’s Restaurant News as a “Top 10 Growth Chain” and by Technomic as the “Fastest-growing restaurant chain in the country.” For more information, visit or for barbecue franchise opportunities call 866.340.6188.